Cue the Boyz II Men music as we have come to the end of the road with our journey through the Yamas & Niyamas. We have discussed the recommendations of the Sage Patanjali on how to better live our lives in harmony. In the Yamas, we primarily focused on the world around us (though we made some effort to internalize them). In the Niyamas, we learned how to augment our personal practices. Now we come to Ishvara Pranidhana. Ishvara Pranidhana means to surrender to God. This statement comes from Sutra 45 in Book 2. The entire sutra is: “By total surrender to God, Samadhi is attained.” Samadhi being absolute contemplation; peace; equanimity; a superconscious state. When I first entered Yoga, I felt like Samadhi was some sort of superhero moment. It felt akin to how Clark Kent turns into Superman, or Diana Prince becomes Wonder Woman. My understanding of it is now more achievable. It is those brief moments in which we are at peace when our minds are not tossed about by our emotions and thoughts.
Let’s take the belief in deities out from Ishvara Pranidhana for the first part of this discussion. Let’s focus solely on the word surrender, ‘Pranidhana.’ As we practice Yoga (including the Yamas and Niyamas), we should not expect any reward. We just do, and peace will come. We do the practice and surrender any expectations. Our practice should become rote, but with focus and surrendering our expectations for any result. Let’s now get back to ‘Ishvara.’ In the translation and commentary of the Yoga Sutras by Sri Satchidananda, he encourages us to treat everything we do as if we were doing it for God. If that is not your belief system, then think of everyone as interconnected. If we practice Yoga, then treating everyone and everything as ourselves, then we are surrendering to that universality. We are serving the world (as a proxy for God/Universal Consciousness). It does not have to be complicated. Enjoy your practice, make the world a better place, and peace will come.
My sincere wish is that we have shed some light on the Yamas and Niyamas as a way for you to find more fulfillment in your life. These practices should enhance your practice, when they don’t you should take an honest look and make whatever accommodations are necessary.
Frank de la Cruz, E-RYT 200, YACEP, is a Yoga teacher and writer who lives in Central Florida. Frank began his Yoga journey in 2011 and strongly believes that Yoga is for everyBODY.